A LEGENDARY EVENT wins ISES Esprit Award for High Museum Wine Auction

This weekend, A Legendary Event won a prestigious ISES Esprit Award from the International Special Events Society (ISES) in the category of Best Off-Premise Catered Event. A Legendary Event was awarded top honors for catering The High Museum Atlanta Wine Auction’s 16th Annual Gala Dinner. The menu’s distinct southern flair was a big hit with the 800 wine-loving guests. In addition to A Legendary Event’s Executive Chef Lincoln Stevens, the event featured several Guest Chefs from the Southern Foodways Alliance including Athens’ Chef Hugh Acheson who prepared this savory low country stew (see above photo).

Traveling back from the awards ceremony in San Francisco, Owner and President of A Legendary Event, Tony Conway commented by phone, “It is great that our team’s work was recognized by our peers for such a title.” ISES is dedicated to recognizing excellence in events and honoring those individuals whose vision and creativity make their events “Special.” For more information contact http://www.ises.com/.

Open Hand’s Party in the Kitchen promises to be “White, Hot, Cool”

ATLANTA – (August 6, 2009) The seventh annual Party in the Kitchen, on Wednesday, September 9, 2009, benefits Open Hand, a nonprofit organization that prepares and delivers over 5,000 meals every day to homebound seniors and individuals living with chronic disease or critical illness in seventeen counties throughout metro Atlanta. Open Hand’s Comprehensive Nutrition CareSM program combines these meals with nutrition education, counseling and therapy to help clients prevent or better manage chronic disease.

Party in the Kitchen will be held in the new warehouse space at 181 Armour Drive in Midtown recently secured by Open Hand for the expansion of its kitchen and distribution operations. The location is directly adjacent to Open Hand’s current Ottley Drive facility. According to co-chair Sally Dorsey, “Party in the Kitchen will not only be a wonderful chance for guests and supporters to celebrate the incredible work Open Hand does in the community, but a perfect opportunity for them to preview how effectively Open Hand’s new space and its existing facility will be integrated into one beautifully functional campus.”

Billed as a “White, Hot, Cool” party, the evening will feature a wide variety of fabulous dishes prepared by many of Atlanta’s best chefs (see below). Guests, who are asked to dress in white, will also enjoy music provided by DJ Tye West, and an exciting silent auction featuring exceptional travel and entertainment packages, fine dining experiences, and many one-of-a kind items. Complimentary valet parking will be provided.

Party in the Kitchen co-chairs (pictured l-r) are Open Hand Board members Todd Tautfest and Sally Dorsey and A Legendary Event’s Tony Conway. Party in the Kitchen’s Gold Sponsor is BNY Wealth Management. Silver Sponsors are Ketel One Vodka, Harry Norman Realtors, A Legendary Event and Here to Serve Restaurants. Media sponsors are Atlanta Magazine, Flavors, and Jezebel. Reserved admission is $500 for each Patron ticket and $150 for each single ticket. Tickets may be purchased at ProjectOpenHand.org or by contacting Michelle Duncan at 404-419-3333 or mduncan@projectopenhand.org.

Gala Salutes “A New Day Dawning” at the Atlanta Botanical Garden

With the opening of new gardens and facilities at the Atlanta Botanical Garden, what better theme for the 2009 Garden of Eden Ball than “Sunrise: A New Day Dawns at the Garden”?

The 28th annual event, the Garden’s largest benefit, will be held Saturday evening, September 26 on the Great Lawn in a large tented ballroom surrounded by several gigantic bronze sculptures by British artist Henry Moore on display in the current exhibition, Moore in America. The expansion is funded by a New Seasons Capital Campaign that has raised more than $45 million under the leadership of Jane and Dameron Black, this year’s honorary ball chairs.

The event kicks off at 7 p.m. with cocktails in the Levy Parterre, followed by a three-course dinner under the tent. Tony Conway’s full service catering company A Legendary Event will provide the menu again this year under the direction of Executive Chef Lincoln Stevens. Stevens’ menu last year featured lemon poached shrimp, petite demitasse of heirloom tomato gazpacho and Parmesan basil tuile to start; horseradish-crusted grouper and Kobe steak, smoked gouda and goat cheese mornay, truffled gremolata risotto and saffron-braised squash and red carrots as the main entree; and ended with a pomegranate mousse dome for the ladies and a milk chocolate mousse tart for the gentlemen. Multiple courses of sweet & savory haute cuisine are slated for this year’s menu. “This year is sure to top last year’s dinner working with Honorary Gala Chairs Jane and Dameron Black,” states Conway.

Drawing more than 450 guests annually, the Garden of Eden Ball supports the Garden’s mission to develop and maintain plant collections for display, education, conservation and enjoyment. For ticket information, contact Jennifer Wyrick at jwyrick@atlantabotanicalgarden.org.

Legendary Cuisine and Floral featured in The Atlantan Brides Magazine

Check out the beautiful ivory rose bridal bouquet A Legendary Event floral director Kim Vasil created for Adria Coleman’s March 7th wedding to Cincinatti Bengals player Robert Geathers Jr. in The Atlantan Brides’ “Divine Design.” Designers Donald Mill and Sophia Lin were vital in the planning and execution of this “color infused” wedding. “We set out to capture as essence of classical beauty with unique, contemporary twist,” stated Lin. Also, get tips on creating the perfect after-party fare in “After Midnight.” Sausage and scrambled egg sliders are one of the decadent menu items suggested by Tony Conway. To read digital versions click on link below:

HOW TO KEEP YOUR BUSINESS COOKING as featured in Debut Issue of Georgia Performance Magazine

True, I’m no Harvard business grad. Nevertheless, in just ten years, I have built a small Special Event Business from my own kitchen into a multi-million dollar enterprise. I’m not bragging, just illustrating a point. The gradient has been steep, at times challenging, but I have certainly learned a thing or two about effective business practices along the way. From slicing avocados (nothing against avocados) to managing a team of over 200 employees, here are ten business strategies that have. . .


Photo by Heinze Linke

What a Week!

Wow! What a week…

The Bio conference in our city was such a great conference and we were fortunate to be selected for 8 of the events…several were held at the amazing Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce Rooftop (MACoC) and several at The World of Coca-Cola! If you have not seen this wonderful venue you must consider it. Our team is happy to give you information about the venue or take a look at their website http://www.worldofcoca-cola.com/. Bio ended their conference on a wonderful note at their closing party held at one of Atlanta’s most acclaimed music venues—the historic Tabernacle http://www.tabernacleatl.com/.

We were so pleased to have been selected by The Atlantan Magazine to be included in the May issue where the wonderful West Side was featured! You can read the article on our website by visiting our press page on our website at http://www.legendaryevents.com/pressroom.html The Atlantan also selected us for the launch of the new RR4 200EX Rolls Royce Ghost: check it out at http://www.rolls-roycemotorcars.com/

Have I exhuasted you yet? Have a wonderful, safe weekend. I’ll be finishing up some reading over the long weekend and pruning my hedges (literally). I may even swing by Goldbergs Deli and order their Nova Platter (my favorite).

Above photo by Sarah Dorio compliments of The Atlantan Magazine.

Tony Conway Caters to Atlanta’s rich and famous (as published in The Atlanta Journal and Constitution, 5/10/09)

(by Jennifer Britt, photo by Jason Getz)
The lunching ladies were on the way. The tables were laid estate-style, set end-to-end like shimmering runways. Tony Conway orbited the arrangement to make sure glasses lined up exactly, that the seats of the chairs barely touched the tablecloths, that the hydrangeas, tulips and peonies were fluffed to perfection. “My designers say, ‘Nature doesn’t do that,’” he said as he fussed over a bloom. “I’m not nature.”

The founder and president of A Legendary Event, Conway’s client list includes Jane Fonda, Elton John and Tyler Perry (he oversaw the million-dollar opening gala for Perry’s new studio last fall). A more-is-more kind of guy, Conway’s catering and design company turned a section of the unfabulous Civic Center into a sumptuous event space during the run of the King Tut exhibit. When the Atlanta Symphony Ball chose “La Vie en Rose” as its theme a couple of years ago, Conway showered the InterContinental Hotel’s ballroom with 7,000 blooms.

“My life is just a party,” said Conway, whose 12-year-old company employees 200 staffers and 42 managers; his partner, Steve Welsh, is the firm’s creative director. “I love what I do, even when I’m not doing it. I’ve never gotten bored.” A fixture on the scene (and behind the scenes) at the city’s major society and charity events, Conway is well-known among the air-kissing set, but his background might not be. The first crowds Conway fed were the field hands on his great grandparents’ farm in Weinert, Texas, a dot on the map about 250 miles northwest of Dallas. He got his first paying job by doctoring his birth certificate, and once contrived to bartend during an Ike and Tina Turner concert even though he was too young to drink legally.

The man who serves some of Atlanta’s wealthiest and most influential residents got into catering almost as a dare to himself, and clients who have become friends marvel at his aplomb. “One time, we had an event and the reservation person hadn’t done that good of a job,” said frequent event chairwoman Sally Dorsey, who’s been throwing parties with Conway’s help for years. “Someone called up and said, ‘Who will I be sitting with?’ Tony said, ‘Oh you have the most fabulous seat. It’ll be the greatest seat in the house.’ Of course, we didn’t even know they were coming.”

Sandra Baldwin, active with numerous charities, chaired the Atlanta Ballet Ball at the Ritz-Carlton while Conway was there. They decided to pitch a tent for the after-party, where the Dixie Chicks played. “The fire marshal was about ready to shut us down,” Baldwin said. “Tony handled everything. I don’t know what he did, but he took care of it. We’re the Will and Grace of Atlanta. When I get all crazy he’ll say, ‘Grace, calm down.’ Tony’s like the eye of the storm.”

Conway’s unflappable demeanor was formed in the predawn hours down on the farm, where he spent summers as a child. He learned the importance of timing (if the biscuits weren’t served hot, his great grandmother would say, the butter won’t melt) and of hard work. “I remember my great grandfather saying, ‘We’re going to hoe cotton,’ ” he recalled. “I said, ‘I’m not doing that. The hoe’s too big for me.’ “Without missing a beat, the old man snapped the tool over his knee and handed the shortened implement to his 7-year-old great grandson. “He used the other end to give me a spanking,” Conway recalled.

The future events planner honed his social graces amid the ladies in his great grandmother’s sewing circle, and learned the importance of giving back and not wasting. “We would keep the ends of vegetables to make a stew or feed the animals,” said Conway, who remembers sharing the garden’s bounty with neighbors. His entrepreneurial streak blossomed as a teenager. He recalls sitting on the tailgate of his mother’s station wagon, tossing the Houston Post onto driveways in the dark. At 15, he aged himself a year with the deft application of correction fluid and landed a job at an ice cream parlor.

“That lasted about three days,” he said. During his senior year of high school, he got a job washing dishes in the kitchen of a Holiday Inn, where his mother ran a salon. “I heard Ike and Tina Turner were coming and asked if I could help bartend,” he said. Underage but undeterred, 16-year-old Conway positioned himself behind the bar. “I had no idea my mom and her friends were coming,” he said. “Busted again.” But on the morning when two buses carrying a bowling league showed up — and the cook didn’t — the dishwasher stepped behind the grill and onto a career path. “It was myself and two waitresses, Ann and Marge,” he said. “We cooked breakfast.”

After college at the University of Texas at Austin, where he studied business and marketing, Conway and a friend opened a gourmet deli in the Houston area. Not satisfied with walk-in customers, he decided he’d like to get into catering. Some family friends held seats on the art museum’s board, and Conway persuaded the museum to give his fledgling business the contract for its black-tie gala. The only problem, of course, was that he had no experience.

“We called Glorious Food in New York,” he said, referring to an established, high-end events firm there. “We asked if we could work for free, to learn.” At the end of the catering crash course, Conway rallied every friend and relative he could talk into it to rent a tux and help on the big night. The event went well, but his business partner was nearly done in by the experience and closed the deli. “I was jobless,” Conway said. “I was like, ‘What do I do now?’ “Ready for another leap of faith, he answered a Marriott ad seeking a director of catering. “You don’t know what you’re doing, do you?” the interviewer asked. Conway pleaded for a chance, and thrived. He ran the catering operations in several Marriotts, then interviewed on Christmas Eve 1991 for a position as the Buckhead Ritz-Carlton’s director of catering and conference services.

“I drove to Atlanta in a snowstorm,” he said. “My first day I got a phone call saying, ‘Employees can’t get to work.” His professional Atlanta debut started with a shift manning the phones for a snowbound switchboard operator. “He never ruffles,” said Charlene Crusoe-Ingram, a retired Coca Cola executive who now donates her time to the arts and charity. She is co-chairwoman of Meal to Remember, a November gala benefiting Senior Citizen Services. Conway will handle the decor, as he did for the host committee luncheon he was preparing for the other day. The ball is likely to draw more than 300 people, but Crusoe-Ingram has attended Conway-catered luncheons for eight or 10. She said he’ll attend to a handful of people in someone’s home, and a ballroom packed with social swans, with the same level of care.

“He has high standards,” she said. “He likes doing elegant things.” Not that A Legendary Event, which moved last summer into a 55,000-square-foot building in the Westside area, has never faced a snag. “We have [driven] into the side of a client’s house, driven over the lights, blown wax all over a beautiful sideboard,” he said. “Fortunately, insurance is great. I’m a pretty level-headed person. I never yell and scream.”

Conway enjoys traveling and usually has half a dozen books going at one time (“The Kite Runner,” “The Story of Edgar Sawtelle” and “What Would Google Do?” have all been on the nightstand lately.) He says he’s not interested in expanding the business to new locations or more cities, but is considering culinary school, for some formal training as a pastry chef. And in his free time, Atlanta’s quintessential party planner trades exquisite hors d’oeuvres for the simple flavors he learned to love in his great grandmother’s kitchen. “My favorite place for dinner is my home,” he said. “I’m happy that comfort foods are back. If I had my last meal, it would be fried chicken. Isn’t that crazy?”